Christmas has happened - the 30th in my life, which is a milestone of sorts - and now it's time to think about the coming year and all the things that need to be achieved. Teaching's an odd profession, in that your entire working life is broken into set chunks on various levels - academic years, terms, lessons - which offers great potential for 'fresh starts'. Every teacher, I'm sure, sees each new term as a fresh start, solemnly promising themselves that they will keep on top of the book marking and spend a little more time planning decent plenaries. But a new year (a proper new year, rather than the September shenanigans) is a great opportunity to make promises that you deeply intend to keep. I'm not going to make a list of 'resolutions', as in doing so I am guaranteeing failure, as I have no respect for such trifles. Instead, I am going to identify several areas of my professional life that I intend to tweak and improve, to make me a better teacher and also a happier man.
1. More time spent planning lessons that I'm proud to teach. When the going gets tough, it's easy to fall back on the tried and tested lessons that you've taught variations of for years. These lessons may well work ok, and they may even get you through Ofsted with ease if you're generally confident, but they don't make you enthusiastic and excited about your job. In fact, they spread a terrible ennui about the profession that can be difficult to shift. I feel that the comfort zone needs to be left behind, possibly 3-4 times a week to start with, probably with Year 7,8 and 10. Hopefully I can design some really interesting, well-differentiated and enjoyable-to-teach modules/lessons that will get me bouncing again. I will use Twitter as a resource base for this, and existing tools such as the 5 minute lesson plan, marginal learning gains and technology (Edmodo is already in place with one class, but needs far more work).I'm a big fan of KS3 modules in particular having some kind of narrative or central thread that holds it all together, so I will be playing around with this over the next week or so.
2. Keep my classroom in a great state. I am keen to improve my use of displays in my classroom, but frankly haven't really considered this aspect of teaching very much at all over the past 5 years, seeing it as a necessary evil rather than a gateway to learning goodness. It's such a small victory, though, having students' dead work on display: surely there's a better use for all those boards? Vic Goddard mentioned his teachers' displays at the Clevedon TeachMeet back in November, but I never followed it up with research. So - how do we make the best of classroom displays? I like the idea of having them as working documents, built up over a term with student and teacher input, but does anyone have more concrete advice?
3. Get stuck into school life. I started a school club at the tail-end of last term but didn't have the energy to make it happen properly, so my Ghosts, Myths and Legends club will be far more aggressively pushed in January. The idea behind it is to get students of all ages to discuss their interest in all things supernatural or quirky. I try to share a love of folklore and strange tales whilst keeping the fire of rationality and intelligent skepticism alight at all times, which has worked wonderfully well in the past. So I will get this up and running properly to begin with, but then I am going to try to get involved in more school-wide activities. Being ensconced in my classroom is a great panacea on a rough day, but again leads to a terrible sense of isolation and boredom. It can be so tempting to sit on your laptop, putting together a lesson or marking a few books, every break and lunchtime, but this invariably leads to a sense of disenchantment. It's time to get out there and start organising things. I can get my tutor group (Year 8, so keeping them on the straight and narrow is vital) to get on with charity events and such, and I could get stuck into some clubs and extra-curricular activities. This will lead to a greater sense of well being, and will increase my overall enthusiasm.
4. Get all marking done on time. Enough said.
Well, there we are. Four things to focus on, all of which should boost my cheerfulness and contentment, as well as my professional ability. I'll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck.